Iowa lawmakers say K-12 funding shakeup would force cuts in other areas


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A bill in the Iowa House calling for the state to fully fund K-12 schools has opponents saying such an action would force legislators to cut support for other programs.

Currently, the state funds 87.5 percent of K-12 funding. Each school district receives $5.40 per $1,000 of revenue from taxable property in the district. Since different-sized school districts would get different amounts of money, the bill would provide districts currently with less revenue with additional support.


Proponents of the bill say differences in revenue from the taxable properties among school districts would be leveled by fully funding the school, allowing the smaller districts to receive more funding.
House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said the bill will support schools who need funding the most.

"In some districts, there is a lot of taxable property per child — in others, there is little property tax per child," he said. "There would still be that initial $5.40 because it would raise more [money] in some districts than others, but the [state] picking up the balance would help some districts out."

Brad Hudson, a governmental specialist for the Iowa State Education Association, said the bill would still create gaps in other areas of the state budget.

"If you take the money out of the general fund, then there isn't going to be any funds for other priorities," he said. "We like having property taxes as a portion [of the revenue] and the state as another portion. [The state] would have to cut other programs to make sure that it follows through on its commitment."

Opponents of the bill, however, are skeptical of the motives behind the legislators supporting it. Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the bill would only shift where taxpayer revenue comes from.

"[The bill] does not increase any money to the K-12 schools," he said. "It would shift [revenue gains] from property tax to income tax."

Jacoby said the shift in funds would only put more money into the general fund.

"It's a kind of political trick that says, 'Hey look, we're going to lower your property tax' — but it increases your personal income tax to pay for it," he said. "I do not support the bill at all because it will cost you more in your personal income taxes."

Jacoby said legislators would be better off compromising on the bill.

"The problem with politics is that it's too darn political," he said. "I think [Forristall and I] both feel strongly that our side of the coin is right, and I don't think anyone of us is wrong, but I think that we need to come to a compromise."

If passed, the funding changes would be phased in over the next eight years.

One area school board member said he is skeptical about the state's ability to follow through with proposed funding if the bill passes.

"I think that if you could count on the state, [the bill] could be beneficial," said West Branch School Board President Mike Owen. "But I don't have that trust in the state."

Owen said he's unhappy with the state's past lack of funding for K-12 schools.

"What we have seen over the years is an unwillingness to fund the K-12 schools," he said. "To turn around now and say 'trust us to take care of all the funding' is too big of a leap of faith for me."

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